Mickelson leads at U.S. Open

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By Associated Press


ARDMORE, Pa. (AP) — Whatever was bothering Tiger Woods' wrist seemed to disappear overnight, and Phil Mickelson's round of 67 was holding up as first-round play resumed Friday morning at the U.S. Open.

Mickelson remained the clubhouse leader at 3 under on another rainy day at Merion, although the cool morning drizzle was far gentler than the storms that interrupted play twice on Thursday.

Luke Donald had a chance to match Mickelson's score, but the former world No. 1 missed a 4-foot par putt at No. 18 to finish off a 68.

Woods completed a round of 73, but not before pulling out his driver and putting his first tee shot of the day well right of the fairway into the high grass. On Thursday, he would wince and shake his left arm, particularly his wrist, when playing out of the rough, but there was no obvious sign of discomfort Friday when he played his second shot at the long par-4 No. 12.

There wasn't much else good about the shot, which landed in lesser rough about 100 yards from the hole. Woods then got the ball on the green, but he missed a downhill 5-foot putt and bogeyed the hole to go to 3 over.

Woods birdied the short par-3 13th, but he put his tee shot near the edge of a steep bunker at the par-3 17th and dropped another shot.

The rest of the marquee group featuring the world's top three players didn't fare much better. Masters champion Adam Scott was 3 under when darkness stopped play Thursday, but he dropped a shot at the 12th after his approach landed just short of the pin, spun backward and rolled some 75 feet to the edge of the fairway rough.

Scott then bogeyed No. 14 and put his tee shot out of bounds on the way to a double bogey at the 15th in his round of 72. Rory McIlroy, the third member of the group, found the sand at both the 15th and 18th and shot 73.

Donald held the overnight lead at 4 under through 13 holes, but he bogeyed Nos. 16 and 18 to put him behind Mickelson, who had a much-needed late afternoon tee time after a whirlwind Thursday. Mickelson shot his 67 — his best opening round in the U.S. Open since 1999 — on little sleep after an overnight flight from San Diego, where he attended his daughter's eighth-grade graduation.

Mickelson said he hit the wall at the turn and needed a "caffeine booster" to stay sharp.

"I'll just go back tonight and rest, and I'll have all day tomorrow to rest and it's fine," Mickelson said. "It shouldn't be a problem."

Woods, meanwhile, first appeared to hurt his hand Thursday after trying to gouge out of the deep rough on the opening hole, then shook his wrist again after hitting a 5-wood out of the rough at No. 5.

No. 11 was particularly difficult: He doubled over after hitting his second shot from the left rough, the ball landing in even thicker rough near the green. He dropped his arm to his side immediately after his next shot and was shaking the arm as he walked on the green.

Nevertheless, in a statement issued late Thursday through his spokesman, Woods insisted all was well.

"I'm doing fine," he said, "and I'm looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow."

Coming into the Open the question was how Merion would fare against a modern-day championship field. It last hosted this event in 1981, with the thinking that today's golfers had outgrown the course.

Certainly, the 301-yard par-3 10th and 102-yard par-3 13th yielded their share of makeable shots — about 30 percent of the birdies on Thursday came on those two holes — but the high rough, obstructed sightlines and contoured greens did their share to keep the scores from getting too low.

"I always knew this golf course was going to throw birdies at you, and I always knew this golf course was going to throw some bogeys," said Ian Poulter, an appropriate analysis after his round of 71 included five birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey.

"And it's fun and in a kind of up and down way, because that's what it's going to be. No one is going to get around this golf course without making mistakes. You have to manage them really, really well."

Sergio Garcia shot a 73, finding Merion far more daunting than a few wisecracks from the gallery. The Spaniard received mostly warm applause, with some barely audible boos from the grandstand, when he started his round on No. 11.

It was his first time competing in America since his public spat with Woods took a bad turn when he jokingly said he would have Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open and serve fried chicken.

"There were a couple here and there," Garcia said, referring to hecklers. "But I felt the people were very nice for the whole day. I think that almost all of them were behind me and that was nice to see."